10/05/2002 5:56 pm ET
A Giant turn for the worse
Braves' five-run sixth puts SF in 2-1 NLDS hole
By Josh Rawitch / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- To determine how the Braves regained momentum while grabbing Game 3 of the NL Division Series, one needs only to read the following statistic:
Just three times in the last two seasons has Braves starter Greg Maddux walked more men in a game than Giants starter Jason Schmidt did in a span of 17 pitches Saturday afternoon. Schmidt loaded the bases on free passes in the sixth inning and they all came around to score as the Braves went on to beat the Giants 10-2 at Pacific Bell Park to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
"It's definitely a tough loss," said Schmidt, who remains confident that his team will be able to become the first team in NLDS history to overcome a 2-1 deficit. "We've done it all year. ... We're a team that can jump on anybody at any given time so I don't think anybody's really too worried about it."
While Schmidt (0-1) dragged out his sixth-inning collapse, reliever Manny Aybar chose to ingest his poison rapidly. Vinny Castilla hit his first pitch in relief of Schmidt into left field for a two-run single that broke a 1-1 tie. The right-hander's next offering was deposited onto the arcade in right field by Keith Lockhart for a three-run homer to give the Braves an insurmountable five-run lead.
"It's real deflating," said shortstop Rich Aurilia. "One thing it's a tie ballgame, the next thing you know two pitches later, you're down five runs. They got the clutch hits. It seemed like they had guys on base every inning and when we had guys on base, we didn't knock them in."
That's because Maddux (1-0) was on top of his game. He needed just 67 pitches, including a four-pitch second inning during his six-inning stint to earn the victory. After hitting Jeff Kent in the head with a two-out pitch to put runners on first and second in the third inning, he retired Barry Bonds on a hard-smash force out that played right into the Braves' infield shift. It was the first of nine consecutive outs posted by Maddux in the middle innings.
Bonds' sixth-inning homer, his second in his last four plate appearances, helped scratch the surface, but it hardly fazed Maddux. The four-time Cy Young Award winner walked just one -- an intentional pass to Bonds in the first inning -- and permitted five hits en route to his first postseason victory since Game 1 of the 1999 NL Championship Series against the New York Mets, a span of seven starts.
The Giants got to Maddux early, as Kenny Lofton bunted for a base hit to start the bottom of the first and scored two batters later on Kent's double down the left-field line. But after Atlanta intentionally walked Bonds, Kent tried to steal third base and in a stroke of bad luck, ran right into a double play. On the play, Benito Santiago hit a grounder to Castilla that allowed the third baseman, according to Kent, to tag him "by the hair on my chin" as he dove into third and throw to first to end the inning.
After that, it was all Atlanta. Rafael Furcal led off the third inning with a fly ball over the head of Bonds, and when the left fielder slipped at the base of the wall, the speedy shortstop raced into third with a triple. Julio Franco's groundout brought home the Braves' first run to tie the game and it remained that way until the five-run sixth.
Atlanta took a four-run lead into the ninth but made sure the game was put to bed by batting around against four Giants pitchers. Andruw Jones drove in two with a single and Lockhart singled home another, his fourth RBI of the game.
"That's the thing with the postseason, it doesn't matter what guys' batting averages were during the regular season," said J.T. Snow, who had one of the Giants' five hits. "None of that matters. It all goes out the window. Anyone's dangerous at any time. You see that a lot. Castilla today and Lockhart, you probably expect [Gary] Sheffield and Chipper [Jones] and Andruw Jones and those guys, but it takes everybody.
"You can't just expect your big guns to get the job done. It takes everybody to win."
Chris Hammond, returning from a neck injury suffered in Game 1, retired the side in the seventh inning while Mike Remlinger and Kevin Gryboski pitched the eighth and ninth innings, respectively, to close out the game. That trio and Maddux combined to retire 20 of the last 21 hitters in the game.
The Giants, who have not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since reaching the World Series in 1989, will need to beat Tom Glavine at home Sunday and Kevin Millwood in Atlanta on Monday to become the first team in NLDS history to come back from a 2-1 deficit.
"It's out the window," said Snow of that historical fact. "There's a first for everything. Why can't it be us?"
Josh Rawitch is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at email@example.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.